Farmers, Foresters, Ranchers and Wall Street

By: Amos S. Eno
Posted on:01/21/2011

Michael Van Patten’s Mission Markets Earth is a first-of-its-kind trading platform designed to help everyone, including private landowners, trade ecosystem credits

“Mission Markets Earth (MME) is all about monetizing ecosystem services, making the prices of these things more available to private landowners and others who want to buy or sell the credits,” explains Michael Van Patten, MME’s creator and Executive Director.

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Mike in his Soho office in New York.  We both share a desire to secure the long-term future of ecosystems and working lands.  We both are also using cutting edge internet-based technology and information systems to do it.  

Although the slow down in the economy and the Senate’s rejection of a cap and trade bill last year has slowed action in ecosystem service markets a little, there are new projects and ideas coming to fruition all the time.  I believe ecosystem service credits will ultimately be available for every way in which we impact the environment - and the current list is already quite long!  MME lists the following categories of credits that will eventually be on offer:

  • Voluntary Carbon Credits
  • Wetland Mitigation Credits
  • Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Credits
  • Habitat Conservation Credits
  • Water Rights, Leases & Mutual Ditch Irrigation Shares
  • Transferable Development Rights
  • Water Quality Credits - Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Sediment, Temperature
  • Fisheries Catch Shares - Transfers of Shares and Leases of Allocation
  • TERRA - Transferable Economic Restricted Rights Agreement; private bi-lateral agreement transferring economic benefits from one party to another for a specific time period, similar to an options contract

The Earth Exchange

MME’s trading platform is called the “Earth Exchange.”  It’s a password protected platform that will be open to all investors, natural buyers and sellers.

“The system is in beta right now,” Mike says, “so we don’t have a whole lot of listings active yet.  But we encourage anyone to go to the site and sign up for an account.  You can opt in to be notified electronically of any bid or offer that takes place on the platform.    We are working out the kinks and should be out of beta by sometime this April.”

“We currently have about 65 members, some of which are very large corporations and US government agencies,” he continues.  “When landowners or other sellers of credits come to us directly, we can refer them to consultants and other third parties who can assist in the development and registry of various types of credits.  Currently we are actively seeking people and organizations who can be listed as trusted third party service providers on the Exchange.”  

That is one of the ways in which our Private Landowner Network will be partnering with MME.  We will share our yellow page listings with MME, which contain many service providers with expertise in forestry, alternative energy, easement execution, wildlife habitat, and ecology.  In return, MME can share their new listings with PLN to facilitate cost-effective expansion of our yellow pages database.  If you doubt the interest of PLN users in this type of thing, see where the Association of Consulting Foresters recently featured Mike’s work in an article entitled “The Brave New World of Ecosystem Service Markets

Mission Markets Climate and Sustainability Exchange for reverse auctions

Mike continues, “Mission Market Earth’s ‘MMCXSE’ or ‘Mission Markets Climate and Sustainability Exchange’ is a platform for project developers and sponsors that uses an RFP or reverse auction process and project management workflow platform.  It will create more efficiencies for renewable energy and conservation project developers and sellers of large illiquid environmental credit portfolios.  This is another means by which buyers and sellers may seek third party service providers to assist in the development of projects.”
Mike says that MME is “a solution to the isolated and fragmented ecosystem markets.  Once credits have been approved by regulatory authorities and registered, we step in to make the process more efficient and transparent by providing pricing and transaction information together in one centralized marketplace.  This, in turn, lowers the cost of transactions.”

There are no fees for buyers, and sellers pay a fee upon completion of a transaction, up to 4% of the value of the credits for a 15-year agreement.

Ecosystem Credit Buyers and Sellers

In case you are wondering, his website provides a rundown of those who will benefit from the trading platform.  Sellers include:  
  • Private Landowners
  • Owners of illiquid environmental assets, including carbon funds, project developers, investors, aggregators
  • Municipalities & Local Governments
  • Land Trusts
  • Environmental Bankers, Consultants & Advisors
  • Corporations & NGO’s
  • Renewable Energy Project Developers
  • Agriculture Sector
  • Utilities

Buyers Include:
  • Developers
  • Corporations
  • Municipalities and Local Governments
  • Private Landowners & Agriculture Industry Professionals
  • Various Government Agencies
  • Fishermen, Fisheries Permit Banks, Quota Brokers, Quota Holders
  • NGOs and other Environmental Groups
  • Regional Environmental Credit Exchanges
  • Real Estate Developers
  • Water Rights Brokers & Water Banks
  • Environmental Investment Funds

In the future, MME will add Stormwater Runoff Credits, Mangrove Credits, Biomass Units and Marine or “Blue” Carbon Credits.  I’m sure that’s not the end.  With all the ways in which humans use or abuse the planet, it’s good to have Mission Markets Earth working to make it easier for those who want to give back - and get a fair price for it to boot.